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Report Finds Plummer Park Historic Status No Longer Valid

Historic Preservation Commission learns the removal of Plummer House in 1983 to Calabasas allegedly invalidates the park's original landmark designation.

The movement suffered a setback Tuesday night when a report delivered to the Historic Preservation Commission stated Plummer Park's historic landmark designation was no longer valid.

In 1935, was designated as “California Historic Landmark No 160.” That designation described the park as containing a dance pavilion, a barbeque pit, well, pepper trees, elderberry trees and a six-room house built by Captain Eugenio Plummer in 1874. For many years, the Plummer House had a placard describing it as “the oldest house in Hollywood.”

In the 77 years since that landmark designation was made, the park has changed drastically, with the addition of the conjoined Great Hall/Long Hall in 1938 and Fiesta Hall in 1950, and the demolition of the dance pavilion, barbeque pit and well.

In 1983, the Plummer House had fallen into severe disrepair and was slated for demolition, but was saved by the Leonis Adobe Association, which moved it to Calabasas.

The report presented to the Historic Preservation Commission concludes that the park no longer resembles the park described in the 1935 designation and that the removal of the Plummer House invalidated the original landmark application.

An accompanying letter from the state dated Oct. 31, 1983, also said that the landmark status was invalidated by the removal of the house.

Protect Plummer Park had hoped the historic landmark status would prevent the city from carrying through its plan to demolish Great Hall/Long Hall, the only buildings in Los Angeles County that were built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era government agency that built many public works projects.  

“I’m sorry there’s nothing in [the report] that helps bolster your argument,” Commission Chair Gail Ostergren told the Plummer Park supporters at the meeting. “I know it’s been frustrating that you’ve been here month after month with a lot of passion and comments, and we haven’t been able to respond because it hasn’t been on the agenda.”

Public can write a nomination

Commissioner Bruce Kaye described the report as a “technicality” and encouraged the public to write a historic nomination for Plummer Park or some of the buildings in the park.

“I would urge you, if you care about things, to be proactive and to write nominations and not to wait for the city or some other entity to do that work for you,” Kaye said. “If there are buildings that you see in the park that you think should be nominated, well then write those nominations. Don’t wait for the city to do it. This commission does not have the authority to write nominations. It’s not what we do.”

Kaye went on to say that the process of nominating a building for historic status can be intimidating and time-consuming, but that the public has done it in the past.

Stephanie Harker, who spearheaded the Protect Plummer Park movement, said she was disappointed by the report, but glad to have the information.

“I’m surprised it has taken them this long to look into it,” said Harker. “I’ve been mentioning Historic Marker 160 for eight months.”

The report also states that even if the landmark status was still valid, there is nothing in that designation that prevents the city from making improvements and modifications to the park, provided the city complies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  

Harker told Weho Patch, “CEQA has stated that on this project, either in the draft EIR [Environmental Impact Report] or the EIR that to demolish or alter Fiesta Hall, Great Hall, Long Hall in any way was a significant adverse impact. That would mean that if the city is going to follow CEQA, they will not be destroying those historic buildings.”

The city plans a $41 million renovation of the park. The city initially proposed closing a majority of the park for 18 to 24 months while a 179-space underground parking garage was constructed in the middle of the park. The plan also called for the demolition of Great Hall/Long Hall and Tiny Tots pre-school building and removal of most of the old growth trees in the center of the park.

Due to public outcry, the City Council agreed to delay the renovations while other options were considered. A City Hall subcommittee is currently studying alternate plans and is scheduled to make a presentation to the council in May.

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lapate March 29, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Now hopefully the city can get going on the long overdue renovation. It can't happen soon enough!
Jerome Cleary March 29, 2012 at 04:19 PM
But this was done in 1983 before cityhood of West Hollywood so it was not done under any guidelines or guidance from our present city. Only a year later West Hollywood became a city in November 1984 so for some reason our city hall and everyone was in the dark about this structure being removed. So why can't this structure be bought and brought back to Plummer Park now this year to re-establish the original layout and plans of the whole park? Our city has the money to buy this back and do this all.
Rudolf Martin March 29, 2012 at 04:27 PM
yes, the current preschool building should be demolished to create more green space. a new preschool would fit perfectly in a renovated and historically designated Great Hall Long Hall which could also accommodate a sheriff substation and an Audubon Society office. If additional parking is needed it should be on the existing fountain parking lot with tennis courts on top. then the 2 south tennis courts would be turned into new green space as well. Fiesta Hall interior should be renovated and upgraded and its courtyard can be opened up to the park. All the old growth trees will be saved. We want a better park without destroying its historic assets.
Rudolf Martin March 29, 2012 at 04:45 PM
bringing back Plummer House would be a major coup for historic preservation. if the 2 south tennis courts can be moved on top of fountain parking there would still be a net gain in greenspace. Plummer House could be both a museum and the new home for Audubon Society as well. This would be very much in the spirit of Eugene Plummer who planted most of the old trees in the late 1800s. Now we will see how creative a city we really are.
Riley March 29, 2012 at 07:12 PM
@lapate - there is absolutely no reason to hurry the Plummer Park project. The City needs to get it right this time around and they seem to be trying. Gutting the park, destroying or decimating the historic buildings and killing over 50 old growth and heritage trees was the plan and it would not make a better park. The park has been severely neglected in the name of deferred maintenance. It can be a charming, rustic park if it's done with the history in mind.
allegra March 29, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Lapate, as with Pickfair Studios (the Lot), the buildings are historic, designated or not. I’m with Riley. It can be a beautiful & charming park if thought out with preservation in mind. As far as I can tell, lapate (if an actual resident) is one of 5 people, with no financial or political interest (?), who like the park plan. The Chorale, the last group who spoke against it’s preservation, receives City funding. They had no clue that the Plummer Park group supports the upgrade of the interior of Fiesta Hall. I do love the names people make up who suddenly appear to disrespect those residents who speak at City meetings after a long day at work. LAPATE...Take that name apart & unless it’s Pat E from L.A., it’s either chopped liver or a balding man from L.A. Lapate...if you are real & care, you should come to a meeting, with your cup of Joe from Urth, and speak up.
Rudolf Martin March 29, 2012 at 09:37 PM
the conveniently anonymous 'lapate' has not really looked at the plans he so eagerly is cheerleading for. in his other comment he repeats the talking point about 'phases' which has long been proven to be disingenuous and false. i would encourage all those that feel compelled to endorse something to first look at what it is they're endorsing. we have seen people prompted by the city to publicly endorse the plan because they like to see fiesta hall's interior improved. little did they know that nobody had an argument with that nor what the rest of the plan actually entailed. the city deserves credit for putting this process on hold to look for better alternatives. the landmark status would not have prevented the city from moving forward with the old plan. it was simply the public outcry that stopped it.
Todd Bianco March 30, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I agree with @Jerome - this park was gutted before the City was formed. I also agree with the report that says the original designation is no longer valid given all the changes. A dozen years ago, I pulled together all the information necessary to have my home designated an historic property by the City. It wasn't easy, but it can be done. In my case, much of the work was already done as the City had compiled a report on the Old Sherman thematic group of bungalows. The first step is to go back to the original designation and copy and paste the portions that relate to the remaining structures & grounds... Update it for the WPA building, etc. I'd love to see the original Adobe moved back, but it may be too fragile now. It will be a long process but worth it in the long run. I know the City seems to be in a hurry to get this done - an admirable goal in most cases. But the park can survive another few years before the makeover and restoration. The underground parking in the proposed location is wrong. (Just as the new robo-garage on City Hall's parking lot is a major mistake and waste of money.) And any new structure needs to do a better job of fitting in with the existing buildings.
Chloe Ross March 30, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Ladies and Gentlemen - I spoke for almost an hour with William Burg at CA State Dept of Historic Preservation yesterday. The land is still #160. Whether it has any bearing on the current matter in front of us - for the building and/or the land to be de-designated a request to the CAHP should have, but was not ever sent when Leonidas took the house. The trees and land use may be historic resources whether they are listed or not. But Plummer Park remains #160. The tree ages can be determined without cutting to count rings. The bottom line is that this is a gem that needs polishing to restore its appearance. A better park is one that serves those who use it regularly. And a better park lets the people of WeHo and visitors see that we value our small, but delightful green areas. That our city realizes the history that is there and respects it. I wonder...
joninla March 30, 2012 at 08:48 PM
As I suspected when you last posted about believing this was a good project for the eastside, you clearly have been influenced by and/or are speaking for the City, who is making a $41 Million Dollar scam on the City that will also result in the loss of one of the few exisiting places that make living on the eastside bearable. This project will make the long neglected eastside of the city which is already in need of renovagtion EVEN WORSE without the large green heavily used plummer park and with no more money left in the City's Annual budget to make any other needed improvements to the eastside.
joninla March 30, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Well said. In addition, if anyone actually likes the design, I suggest you go and spend actual time at the new West Hollywood Park. It looks kind of spiffy and new when looked at. But after using the park on a semi-regular basis, the terrible design and the problems with anything growning over an underground parking garage would make anyone realize how bad Plummer Park will be in reality under the current plans and being done by the same contractors. There is already a clear problem with growing grass in front of the new library (which I did not realzise for quite some time, is actually on-top of a new parking garage which is used by the library for its staff and almost invisible to people using the park. I believe Planning Commission Marc Yerber stated in a hearing there is a huge problem with drainage whenever there is any attempt to grown anything over an underground parking garage which has just been covered with a layer of ground/earth. We know for sure (we have west hollywood park 24/7 an example) for everyone to realize what a mistake the current plans are and the permanant irreparable loss that it will cause to Plummer Park which is such an important and heavily used part of the eastside of our city.
joninla March 30, 2012 at 09:06 PM
I am not sure I understand the classifications you are pointing out, but do we need to have a formal declaration of 'historic' for anyone on the City Council (or any living person, even a 'twit' with no sense at all) to know as common knowledge that Plummer Park is a rare and historic public park that not only should be preserved, but to even consider the cutting down of any trees and detruction of the park in favor of a concrete parking structure is so against the City's Main Stated Purpoes, The Environmental Movement, the Quality of Life for average people living near the park and just plain old COMMON SENSE. The elected City Council Members we voted for are violating the City's main purpose for creation and violating the trust of the residents. The motivation of the City Council's intense need to push through the immediate start of the Plummer Park Project needs to be looked at. If there is so much public outcry about what the city has planned, what would motivate the City to want to build and now do it as soon as possible? That would be rhetorical, but some people don't seem to get it. The City is acting for the benefit of the very rich developeres who really control our city. Now they want to actually destroy one of the City's most valuable existing natural resources and the City Council is pushing for it. That could only mean financial corruption by our City Council members (from my perspective) Anyone ele think thier is a 'good reason' for this?
Chloe Ross March 30, 2012 at 10:04 PM
The motivations of the City notwithstanding. The direct comments from William Burg are that for one reason or another the park land was not unregistered. Debating the pros and cons of whether the city is corrupt boils down to politics as usual. This is a dead horse that has nothing left to beat. My concern is for the restoration of Plummer Park and a better park for everyone. Cutting down the old growth trees is not a great idea because they cannot be boxed and replanted. Or I should say, occasionally it works - but it is not good for the tree. When I moved to WeHo and my godson at four went to Headstart in the park - he was in one of the WPA buildings. It was lovely and spacious. The trees in the park were big even then so it stands to reason these are some old trees. They are varied and lovely. This is a little oasis in the middle of the East Side and it is well used. It is loved and this is the main reason why those who love this park are so passionate about making it a better park for everyone.
Lynn Russell March 30, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Hi Chloe, thanks for repeating my "you can't beat a dead horse deader than dead" comment. Actually it was repeated from my parents in an attempt to get us children to MOVE ON AND FIND A SOLUTION. It doesn't have any merit to just keep kicking sand in someone's face. If anyone has free time on their hands and wants to run around their computer keyboards, instead of blowing smoke.....Plummer Park Folks could use the help with numerous tasks that put many of us over the top. Let's get on with it.
joninla March 31, 2012 at 06:48 AM
Allegra - as the former victim of the citys attempt to destroy the historic 'Tara' I think you, your experience and opinion carry a lot more weight than any real or perhaps 'plant' for the city. If nothing else, we all should be able to know for sure how the city really feels about historic preservation, disclosing to the public before taking irreparable action, and including the public voices in the preservation of our city. Though I have no opinion on 'the lot' it is yet another example of the way the city operates when destroying historic city property. The Ficket library, Tara, The Lot .... there is a clear pattern of leveling before anyone knows about it.
joninla March 31, 2012 at 07:14 AM
I thing your metaphor to beating a dead horse is a very basic but comprehensible means of trying to make a point., I believe however, the dead horse being beaten to death is the repeated suggestions of what was obvious from the start. Preserving the trees is objective, subjectively and unanimously (counting the unbiased real people voicing their opinion) is the most critical aspect that will destroy a unique treasure forever. To dismiss the reasons and financial motivations for the actions being taken by the city, leaves the protection off all those wonderful old trees to the non-stop voices begging the city to stop the plan. Aside from the disgusting comment made I think in January that "the park ladies" are wasting their time showing up at every single meeting thinking that they will change the city's decision, the history of the city changing their decisions based on public opinion is clear and in general, almost never happens. With Plummer Park, there is a $41 dollar contract in play and the city who never follows the public's opinion in general is not about to suddenly kowtow when there are so m.any millions of dollars already being passed around. Fear that there will be personal consequences for the city's actions in creating $41 Million dollars of city debt for the purpose of building a parking structure that will require the cutting down of what is now commonly recognized as irreplaceable valuable assets from old growth trees any and everywhere.
joninla March 31, 2012 at 07:15 AM
I think the only horse left in the race is the public voice standing up and making it clear that they will make sure anyone who is involved with destroying our park and its trees will be held responsible. But if "the park ladies" keep beating a horse the city has remarkably stated out loud would fail to change anything, I fear the trees are already lost.
Geoffrey Buck April 02, 2012 at 09:38 PM
We recognize Historic Route 66 in West Hollywood and it is something good. Plummer Park will remain California Historic Landmark #160. Nothing has changed and there is no setback. Most people agree that Plummer Park is in need of some sprucing up and most people agree that cutting down ALL the large trees would be a terrible mistake. Plummer Park needs a permanent "Friend of Plummer Park" to help maintain this historical gem and to educate this and future generations about the history of this park and how it is a part of California History.
Chloe Ross April 02, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Geoffrey - you have spoken clearly and honestly. We can protect and make a better park but we shuold think about having a Frineds of Plummer - just as libraries do. As a friend of PP, I would like to see a better park for everyone. This is an idea that is so good - Now that we have P'edPP - it needs all the friends it can get. Tell the PP women and ask what they think. Huzzah for you. I am in!
Riley April 23, 2012 at 10:49 PM
@joninla - if it hadn't been for "the park ladies" there would be a gigantic hole in the middle of Plummer Park, every single tree from Santa Monica Blvd. north to the tennis courts would be dead and gone, the historic WPA structures would be gone and there would be an 8ft fence around the park for the next 22 months. So, let's hear it for the "park ladies" we all owe them big time.
Riley April 23, 2012 at 10:51 PM
@joninla - if it hadn't been for "the park ladies" there would be a gigantic hole in the middle of Plummer Park, every single tree from Santa Monica Blvd. north to the tennis courts would be dead and gone, the historic WPA structures would be gone and there would be an 8ft fence around the park for the next 22 months. So, let's hear it for the "park ladies" and the park dudes as well. We all owe them big time.

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